Americans are learning from Israeli media that President Obama has already received an updated intelligence assessment that says Iran has made “surprising strides towards being able to produce a nuclear weapon.
The Haaretz newspaper in Israel broke the news, reporting that Obama had already received the new National Intelligence Estimate (NIE). The intelligence compilation, a consensus of the American intelligence community, is that "Iran has made surprising, notable progress in the research and development of key components of its military nuclear program." The daily Israeli newspaper cited unnamed "Western diplomats and Israeli officials."
Meanwhile, Obama spokesman Jay Carney was evasive and would not answer questions about the bombshell report, according to the Haaretz report.
When asked about the report, White House press secretary Jay Carney replied: "I don't comment on intelligence matters or intelligence reports the president may or may not have received." Carney left reporters in the dark leaving Americans to get news of the report from foreign sources.
"I can tell you that the president remains committed to preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon," Carney told reporters aboard Air Force One as Obama continued about his campaign in the swing state of Colorado.
"As far as we know, it comes very close to our own estimate, I would say, as opposed to earlier American estimates. It transforms the Iranian situation to an even more urgent one, and it is even less likely that we will know every development in time on the Iranian nuclear program," Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said, according to a CBS report on the interview.
If the Haaretz report turns out to be accurate, the new NIE would equate to a major shift in American intelligence agencies' assessment of Iranian nuclear capabilities. A 2007 NIE said Iran had halted its military nuclear program in 2003 and that there was no clear evidence that those efforts had resumed. However, many credible Western officials say Iran wants to build a nuclear weapon, if not an atomic arsenal, Media Matters reported.
Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney has said Obama is soft on support for Israel and there are few indications that would change under a second Obama administration. Republicans have accused the administration of leaking classified national security information about an unprecedented cyberwar effort to sabotage Iran's nuclear program, for political purposes.